Where Operations and the Chef Agree

Guest Post By Willis Getchell, CEC

Recipe costing cards set the standard and save money

Recipes File Drawer LabelOne of my fellow instructors was doing some consulting with a local restaurant recently. On three separate occasions he sampled the restaurant’s “signature” chicken entrée and got three decidedly different versions. When he met with the owner, he asked if there was a standardized recipe for the chicken. The owner replied, “No, everyone knows how to make it!”

My colleague begged to differ.

I am increasingly amazed and appalled when I hear from my students and on my consulting jobs how many restaurateurs do not have standardized recipes (or costed recipes) for their regular menu items. Standardized recipes assure consistency of the food we serve, which in turn, earns the repeat guests. The standardized recipe is a valuable management tool for both back-of-house (BOH) and front-of-house (FOH) employee training, evaluation of employee performance, retraining and maintaining control of food cost.

A standardized recipe is one that is specific for the restaurant or food service operation based on the actual cooking methodology, cooking times, available equipment and ingredients. It is uncommon for recipes to be copied right from a cookbook or another source without adjustments to the ingredients, equipment or particular situation.

The standardized recipe is a key component of a food cost control system. If an operator doesn’t know the cost of every single item on the menu, it is near impossible to make an objective end-of-the-month assessment of the food cost percentage.

A standardized recipe should contain the following data:

  • Name of the recipe
  • Yield in number of portions, weight, or volume
  • Ingredient form, quality and quantity
  • Preparation methods, cooking methods, time, temperature, holding procedures and how scraps and leftovers will be utilized
  • Turnout procedure (plate presentation and garnish)
  • Photographs of finished dishes

There is the assumption that the persons preparing from the standardized recipe have general culinary knowledge and understand the terminology and instructions used in the written recipe. Ingredients are typically listed in the order of use.

While standardized recipes cannot make chefs out of ordinary cooks, anyone with basic knowledge of cooking terminology can turn out a decent chowder or tomato sauce. There really isn’t a “magic touch” necessary to ensure a chef can turn onions, garlic, tomatoes, olive oil and spices into a great marinara sauce; a great recipe does it every time.

Some of the benefits of having standardized recipes:

  • Creates an absolute standard for kitchen production and finished dishes
  • Allows smooth transition between different kitchen staffs
  • Maintains consistent food quality and standards
  • Serves as a training tool to both FOH and BOH employees
  • Valuable retraining tool during evaluation of employee performance
  • Reference material in case of disputes
  • Base for cost control
  • Guide for menu changes
  • Prevents over ordering, over production and waste

Create a recipe book, a file. Take photographs of finished, plated dishes. Standardized recipes serve a valuable role in your operation. Take the time, follow this advice and get more satisfied guests and more profit.













Willis Getchell is a
 Certified Executive Chef
with experience running 
his own restaurant and
 managing corporate and 
resort settings. He now
 shares his 30-plus years of well-seasoned
 experience at The International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Phoenix. He is a recognized leader in his profession, receiving numerous honors, including the Institute’s 2006 Award of Excellence and the Valley of the Sun Chef’s Association Chef-of-the-Year award.

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3 Time-Sucking Mistakes and How to Fix Them

By David Scott Peters

Three Signs In Male Fists Saying No, No and No Isolated on a White Background.Here are three mistakes restaurant owners and managers make on a daily basis that rob time, and make it difficult to get anything done in the restaurant.

1. Doing everything yourself

I cannot tell you how many restaurant owners and managers I come across who put themselves in a situation where they are the ones doing everything themselves. They are the only ones who can count the money and make the deposit; the only ones who can place the orders; the only ones who can write the schedules; the only ones who can pay the bills; the only ones who can manage a shift; and the only ones who can run their line. You get the picture.

To fix this mistake, you need to develop a team that can do things for you, with you. That team can take the shape as a full-time management team or can be several line employees who do some basic management duties. It will be different for everyone and depends on your sales volumes, hours of operation, etc. But the bottom line is you need to teach them how to do ALL of the various management tasks in your business. It’s your job to understand what needs to be done, to train your team and, most importantly, ensure the process is working by inspecting that everything is getting done.

2. Not creating you time

Once you have a team of people who can do what you’ve been doing, you must schedule time that you are uninterrupted. This is what I call You Time! This is time when you have a manager or manager type on the floor ensuring the restaurant is running well. You explain to EVERYONE you are not to be interrupted. And if you are, politely remind them to find the manager on duty because you are having uninterrupted office time.

This will allow you to review your numbers, work on marketing, plan for success and lead your team.

3. Chasing information down

Ok, so maybe you already fixed the first two mistakes, yet you still feel like you are on a treadmill going nowhere and not getting things done because you are waiting for your managers to give you the information you need to analyze your numbers to make real change in your business. The challenge is you find yourself chasing after your managers asking them repeatedly to finish their assigned tasks. You call. You text. You ask. And when you don’t get your information in a timely manner, the You Time you created is a waste of time because you can’t work on your business!

To change this, you must clearly explain what numbers, checklists, etc., you need, when they are due, how well they should be done and that it’s a non-negotiable request. They are so important, that if they are not done and handed into you as required, they may not be working for you for very long.

David Scott Peters is a restaurant expert, speaker, coach and trainer for independent restaurant owners. He is the developer of SMART Systems Pro, an online restaurant management software program helping the independent restaurant owner remain competitive and profitable in an industry boxed in by the big chain restaurants. He is best known as the SMART Systems guy who can walk into any restaurant and find $10,000 in undiscovered cash before he hits the back door… Guaranteed! Learn more at www.TheRestaurantExpert.com.

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Tip to Lower Food Cost

Proper Portioning

PortioningTip-UtensilUse properly sized ladles and dishers for all sauces, starches, etc. Go smaller than the portion because staff will over fill them.





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Protect Your Restaurant’s Name

Guest Post by Josh Gerben of Gerben Law Firm

gerbenlawIt was Shakespeare who first asked the question, “What’s in a name?” — and when it comes to small businesses like restaurants, the answer is everything. A company’s name is its identity, its brand, and its way of being distinguished by customers. That’s why protecting your restaurant’s name is so important.

How to Protect Your Restaurant’s Name

Securing your restaurant’s specific name involves more than declaring it yours. Whether you’ve been in business for decades or months, you still must take proper precautions in order to protect your name from being used elsewhere. Here’s how:

  1. Understand the Different Types of Protection: According to the National Restaurant Association, “The first step to protecting your name is deciding what can be used as a trademark or service mark.” While a trademark can apply to anything used to distinguish your restaurant from others (i.e., your name, your logo, etc.), a service mark can apply to anything used to distinguish your services.
  2. Trademark Your Name: To protect your restaurant’s name throughout the country, you’ll need federal protection, so you’ll need to file your trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). You should always hire an attorney to assist with this process, as it is a legal proceeding, and the federal government can easily refuse the application if it is incorrectly completed. In addition, prior to filing the trademark, you will need to research existing restaurant trademarks before applying for yours to make sure another business with your name hasn’t already trademarked it. The USPTO website has a searchable database available; however, the search you can do on any website is extremely limited. A trademark attorney will assist you in determining whether a trademark is truly clear for use as your restaurant’s name.
  3. Use Trademark Symbols: Once you’ve properly registered and certified a trademark and received the certificate in the mail, you should use the ® symbol everywhere you use the trademarked name. Be sure to only use this symbol when you’ve actually received the certification; otherwise, you are violating federal law and will run the risk of having your trademark application denied as a result. The other two types of trademark symbols are ™ and SM. The ™ is the one that represents goods, and SM is the one that represents services. Therefore, for your restaurant, use the small capital letters SM to represent your restaurant services.
  4. Monitor for Infringements: Here’s the part of trademarking a lot of businesses miss. After you’ve properly trademarked your name and/or services, it’s your responsibility to guard against infringements. Set up Google Alerts to monitor for the use of your name online. Engage your entire team in watching for other businesses copying your logo. When you discover infringements, send cease-and-desist letters that request removal.

Why Protecting Your Name Is Necessary

Protecting your restaurant’s name is necessary for a few reasons, including:

  1. Easier Expansion Later: While this may seem hard to imagine for a brand-new restaurant business, most franchises started out as single location — and you set yourself up for growth down the line when you protect your name. When your name is protected now, it’s also protected later when you want to expand and open additional locations.
  2. Fewer Copycats: There’s nothing more discouraging to a business owner than having your ideas stolen — but when you don’t take the necessary precautions to protect your restaurant’s name and/or other identifiers, you make it all too easy for someone else to steal them. Just like you wouldn’t give away your recipe secrets, you shouldn’t give away your brand.
  3. Solid Branding: The whole point of a unique name and branding is that it distinguishes your brand and makes you stand out. If every restaurant were called “The Restaurant,” how would people talk about them without confusion? Legally protecting your name and unique business components is a vital way to protect what makes your restaurant yours.

Have you already trademarked your restaurant’s name and/or services? If not, what are you waiting for? Consult with an attorney about protecting your brand for years to come.

Josh Gerbenis the principal of the Gerben Law Firm, PLLC, a firm that focuses on trademark law and services. Gerben Law works with restaurants looking to protect their assets through trademark registration via search and application processes. If you are looking to police your trademark, reach out to Gerben Law Firm, PLLC.

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One-Day Restaurant Seminar May 13


One-Day Restaurant Seminar Teaches Systems and Shortcuts

Independent restaurant owners invited to learn ways to cut costs and increase sales

What: Controlling the Most Important Number in Your Restaurant… Prime Cost with a focus on Cost of Goods Sold

Who: David Scott Peters, trainer, coach, speaker and founder of TheRestaurantExpert.com

When: May 13

Where: TheRestaurantExpert.com World Headquarters

1125 W. Pinnacle Peak Rd., Ste. 105
Phoenix, AZ 85027

What Attendees Will Learn:

- Why industry standards don’t apply to their restaurants
- What expenses make up this magic number called prime cost
- How to calculate this magic number and what makes it what it is
- How to easily and create a budget and become a proactive management team
- Fool-proof systems for reducing your food cost and making more money
- How to turn the product on shelves into cash in the bank
- How to cost out recipes so that money is made on every menu item
- How to use the POS system to measure how well kitchen operates with one report
- Menu engineering practices the are guaranteed to make more money
- Ways to improve managers’ performance

Additional Information:

Restaurant Expert David Scott Peters teaches the key ways independent restaurant owners can immediately impact the bottom line, get more cash in the bank and motivate employees. Attendees to this seminar begin to make more money with their current restaurant menu just by digging in with the systems David teaches in this one-day seminar.

To learn more about the seminar, visit www.therestaurantexpert.com and click the “Seminar” tab at the top of the page.

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Your Profitability is A Simple Word Problem

By David Scott Peters

UntitledThere is one, and really only one, system that ultimately is the key to your restaurant running profitably. And that simple system is so easy even a junior high school student could follow it. Really! Because it is simply a group of word problems… the same one, over and over again.

That simple system or word problem is a recipe costing card.

Do you remember in junior high when you were first introduced to word problems? You know the one… “If a train leaves New York City at 2 p.m. traveling at 50 mph and another train leaves Philadelphia at 3 p.m. traveling at 75 mph, and the distance between the train stations is 100.7 miles, at what mile marker will they both meet?”

Well, putting together the key to running a profitable restaurant is similar to a word problem. It’s a combination of ingredients, portion and costs worked out to a per-item price. It’s similar in format to a recipe, except it focuses on the costs of each item instead of instructions for making the recipe.

Having recipe costing cards allows you to make smart business decisions to ensure your profitability, such as what to charge, whether you need to find less expensive products, if an item needs to change or even drop from the menu, etc. The only way to know the answers to these questions is to know what things cost.

I have  worked with more than 1,000 restaurant owners at this point in my career, on top of the years I spent in restaurants. Through my experience I have seen one mistake repeated over and over again: restaurants operating without recipe costing cards.

So if it’s so simple, like I say, why do so many restaurant owners, chefs, kitchen mangers and back-of-house managers run away from this process and simply not do them?

Generally for a few basic reasons:

1) They don’t know how.

2) There are so many recipes that the sheer number scares them.

3) They don’t think they have to because they inventory, order and pay for the products, so they generally know how much each recipe costs.

Are any of these reasons striking you as familiar?

Well, the good news is, it really is so simple a junior high school student can do it. There is nothing really difficult about it. There are no algebraic equations to follow, no funky mathematical algorithm, no scientific calculator needed, nothing scary. It’s simple arithmetic: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

And yes, before you ask… you must complete a recipe costing card for everything you make in your restaurant. That includes batch recipes, sides, sauces and daily specials. The only way we can truly ensure we are going to make money is to know exactly what each recipe costs.

While a restaurant might have gotten away with this in the past, because food costs weren’t at record levels and new minimum wage increases weren’t anywhere close to the highs they are now, in today’s marketplace a restaurant MUST know how much every dish costs before they sell it. There simply isn’t enough margin in the restaurant business to continue being sloppy in your operations.

And you can’t re-engineer your menu without doing your recipe costing cards first!

If you want to run a profitable restaurant… YOU MUST DO YOUR RECIPE COSTING CARDS!

Do one or two cards a day and within a month or two they’ll all be done. Then, updating the costs on a monthly basis will be easy and fast.

And remember… they are so simple to do that even a junior high school student can do them.

Download this special report that shows you how to make your recipe costing cards.


David Scott Peters is a restaurant expert, speaker, coach and trainer for independent restaurant owners. He is the developer of SMART Systems Pro, an online restaurant management software program helping the independent restaurant owner remain competitive and profitable in an industry boxed in by the big chain restaurants. He is best known as the SMART Systems guy who can walk into any restaurant and find $10,000 in undiscovered cash before he hits the back door… Guaranteed! Learn more at www.TheRestaurantExpert.com.

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XP Support Deadline Passed – How Is Your Security?

Guest Blog Post By Patrick Solum of Retail Data Systems

Experts predicting a “tsunami of viruses” as operating system support ends.

MSFT_logo_rgb_C-Gray_DLet’s face it, the media loves a technical disaster story. In 2000 we had Y2K, and a plethora of security breaches and viruses and worms (Remember Nimda?) that seem to never be as big as what we are told they will be. These items caused lot of inconvenience and in some cases some serious damage but nothing that wasn’t patched, and repaired. We adapted, learned and moved on.

So why should we get concerned about XP end of life when other technical “disasters” that either happened or were looming turned out to be much ado about nothing? It’s simple really. The people in charge of updating, patching and preventing are not going to be doing it anymore as of April 8, 2014.

So what?

The Windows XP operating system in April is going to be “as is” and there will be no more patching, no more updates. This will make the machines that are currently operating on Windows XP vulnerable and a soft and relatively easy-to-exploit target. Even currently with patches, the malware infection rate for a Windows XP machine is over 2 times greater than that of a Windows 7 machine and it will get worse.

Additionally with the install base for Windows XP being as high as 43% from some reports, XP will be a major target of those looking to exploit systems for financial gain. Additional reports even speculate that more sophisticated groups are withholding code in hopes that the vulnerabilities they have discovered remain unpatched after end of life in April. For more information read Microsoft’s own Security Intelligence Report

For most Point of Sale customers on a modern touch screen point of sale system the problem is not the front of house POS system. Many, but not all, run XP embedded, which has another couple of years of life with end of life set for that on December 31, 2016.

The issue is in the back office computers. Many back office systems, even those deployed in the last few years, run XP Pro and most are exposed to the Internet. Firewalls, PCI compliance and other solutions can only protect so far and an outdated system like this is likely to cause you to fall out of PCI compliance no matter what other safeguards are in place.

There are other reasons that an update should be in the works for any machine you have still on XP. Technology changed. Windows XP just doesn’t work with many newer and peripherals like printers, scanners, scales and other devices. Why? It’s more than a decade old and the machine it was designed to be installed on just doesn’t have the horse power to drive these new devices. Not to mention the leaps and bounds software has taken. Newer programs just don’t work on a machine that was designed to surf the web, check email and run a few programs. To put it in perspective… 12 years ago, when it was released, the PC it was designed for had less power than an iPhone does now.

If you have questions or concerns about the risk your business may be taking with your current operating environment, please visit Retail Data Systems windows XP end of life page atwww.rdspos.com/xp or call your local office.


Patrick Solum is the marketing director for Retail Data Systems, the largest provider of Point Of Sale Hardware and Software, in North America. To learn more, email Patrick at psolum@rdspos.com or visit http://rdspos.com/.

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7 Steps to Keep Profits Coming in the Back Door

By David Scott Peters

BackDoor wPurchaseOrderIf there’s one thing I’m likely to focus on in any restaurant, no matter who I’m working with, it’s the back door. Why? Because it’s where most restaurants bleed cash and it’s the easiest to fix.

Your back door is where you do a very important segment of your business – it’s where you order and receive your product.

I stress the importance of having systems in place to make your life easier and make you a lot more money. Well, here’s a step-by-step system that will help you do both of those things.

1)    Plan where deliveries are to be accepted. If you have the room, the best place to check deliveries in is in the walk-in cooler. Most of the foods you’re receiving are perishable products and can only be out of a safe temperature zone for a total of four hours before it’s dangerous to prepare and serve. And the four hours is in total. You have no idea how many times and for how long the product has already been out of the safe temperature zone from the manufacturer to the distributor to your door. And where I live in Arizona, it can be magnified when it’s 112 degrees outside and you’re the last stop on a delivery route.

2) Work with your purveyors in advance to set up receiving time. Bring your orders in when you have trained staff to check them in (see step four). Make sure they do not attempt to deliver your order during busy times such as lunch. If the truck is running late and shows up during a busy time for your restaurant, you must refuse delivery and ask them to come back. Accepting a delivery during a rush not only affects your guest by slowing up the kitchen, but also allows for mistakes in the order to slip by — costing you real money.

3)    Limit your delivery driver’s access to only delivery areas. Not that I’m saying all delivery drivers are dishonest, but some are. If you let them have full range of your restaurant, one day you might be missing a bottle or two of your most expensive tequila. So keep honest people honest and limit their access to the rest of your restaurant.

4)    Have either management or a trained key employee receive orders. This is one of the most important steps. If you want to squeeze every penny of profit out of your restaurant, the person receiving your orders must be trained in your procedure or you could be losing money.

5) When checking in your delivery, follow these steps:

a. Check invoices for accuracy against your PO (hung at the back door) for each item, quantity and prices. This is your opportunity to make any adjustments to your bill before you pay more than your were quoted.

b. Check products for quality and condition. For example, you’ll want to open the case of tomatoes and dig down to the bottom. This way you can make sure the bottom of the box wasn’t packed with bad product before you accept them.

c. Check temperatures of any refrigerated products to make sure they are not out of the safe zone. The most expensive chicken wings in the world are those you accepted that have already turned.

d. Weigh products

i. Have a large scale in your receiving area. (If you don’t have one… go get one!)

ii. Check it routinely for accuracy.

iii. Remove products from packaging and/or ice before weighing and compare to the                invoice weight.

e. If there are any discrepancies or problems with products that have to be returned, have the driver make note on the invoice or fill out a credit memo immediately, before signing the invoice. I had a restaurant owner at one of my first workshops tell me that he started doing this and not telling the distributor for about a week. He discovered that he was losing more than $600 a month to incorrect weights.

f. Remember that once you sign an invoice, you are responsible for payment as shown on the invoice.

6) Have stocking procedures in place as follows:

a. Get any refrigerated products into walk-in coolers or freezers immediately. Again, product that turns is money down the drain.

b. Remove and date any fresh product as may be required by your health code authority.

c. Remove any excess packaging and break down boxes as soon as possible. If you’re throwing boxes away without doing this, I can guarantee you’re paying more for your rubbish removal. Every penny counts.

d. If you are breaking down all of your boxes, it is advised that you keep the label from each. If there is a problem with the product that is discovered later, your purveyor will need to know batch numbers and dates to find out if it is a larger problem and to replace the product.

e. Make sure whoever is stocking is trained to use the first in/first out (FIFO) method in stocking.

7) Have clerical procedures in place as follows:

a. All invoices are verified and signed before a check is written if you are on COD.

b. A copy of the invoice goes to the kitchen manager or chef and a copy goes to whoever is in charge of the checkbook.

c. Immediately update prices in your inventory spreadsheet (or in SMART Systems Pro).


Following this simple-to-use system can have a dramatic effect on not only your bottom line, but on your bank account as well. In fact, at the end of one of my Mastermind Group Coaching calls, one of my Elite Members shared that implementing these systems for ordering and receiving food reduced the amount of food he has in his three restaurants, motivated his kitchen managers, resulted in cleaner more organized walk-ins and most importantly, it put more than $6,000 back into his bank account.

So what are you waiting for? Follow these simple steps at your back door and start making more money.

David Scott Peters is a restaurant expert, speaker, coach and trainer for independent restaurant owners. He is the developer of SMART Systems Pro, an online restaurant management software program helping the independent restaurant owner remain competitive and profitable in an industry boxed in by the big chain restaurants. He is best known as the SMART Systems guy who can walk into any restaurant and find $10,000 in undiscovered cash before he hits the back door… Guaranteed! Learn more at www.TheRestaurantExpert.com.

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10 Commandments of Promotional Marketing

Guest Blog by Jay Siff of Moving Targets

Oh ye of little faith. If you’re a small, independent restaurant, you’re probably convinced you can’t possibly compete in the marketing arena against those big chains with their huge ad budgets and big-time ad agencies.

Actually, nothing could be further from the truth.

In my 15-plus years as a developer of marketing programs for local merchants, I’ve helped many independents make it amidst a crowded local restaurant scene. And while there is no shortage of good ideas out there, those ideas can all be organized around a few key marketing principles every restaurant owner or manager should know. Master them, and you can compete against anyone, big or small.

Using the disciplines outlined here, your establishment can attract new customers, regain lost ones, generate referrals, increase per-table sales, stimulate repeat visits, build customer loyalty and much more. I call them The 10 Commandments of Promotional Marketing:

1. TAKE YOUR CUSTOMER’S POINT OF VIEW. When you promote your business, whether in brochures, on table tents, or in a direct mailing, lead with what’s in it for your customer — not for you. Don’t say, “Buy one, get one free”; instead say, “Get one free with every purchase.”  People deal in their own self-interest. Make sure your offers reflect that fact.

2. MARKET TO YOUR CURRENT CUSTOMERS. Every day scores of people enter your establishment who have already made the decision to buy from you. These are pre-sold, active customers. Allowing them to exit without asking for personal information — especially a street or email address — is a big mistake.

3. BE THE HOMETOWN FAVORITE. It’s a fact that people have a soft spot for neighborhood merchants who support local causes. Sponsor a community event. Donate food for a good cause. Tell your local little league that any winning team showing up at your door in its entirety for ice cream will receive extra scoops for free. Your support and good will, expressed in ways that are important to your community, will make your restaurant the go-to place in town.

4. GIVE AWAY YOUR PRODUCT. Have you ever considered that giving a 100 percent discount one time, may be more valuable in the long run than a 10 percent discount offered on 10 occasions? Free meals to new neighbors and frequent diners are excellent examples.

5. PRACTICE “FOUR WALLS” MARKETING. Every area of your restaurant should be well thought out as to how it will promote your product. This gets people to spend more at each visit.

6. BE OUTRAGEOUS. Wow your customers. Give them a customer experience so unique, so compelling, that they can’t resist coming back.

7. CREATE A SWIPE FILE. The old saying, “If you can’t think of a good idea, steal one,” isn’t unprincipled when it comes to marketing. Hang onto ads or direct mail pieces that catch your eye.

8. TRACK EVERY CAMPAIGN YOU RUN. Ask your new customers how they heard about you, to find out if your ads are working. Whenever you run a promotion, collect the coupons or certificates along with daypart and party size data. Keep a pad or clipboard by the phone to record information. It’s the only way to know which efforts are making you money—and which aren’t.

9. DON’T BE THE COUPON KING. While sampling, discounting and gifting all work well to promote product trial, you must be careful not to overdo it and create a “discounter” image. If you do, your customers will simply become hooked on coupons and wait for the next one to come along. In the meantime your sales and profit opportunities suffer.

10. IF YOU HIRE PROFESSIONALS, HIRE PROVEN WINNERS. If you’re convinced you need advertising or PR agency help, that’s fine. But don’t be fooled by slick presentations. Check references to ensure that the agency or consultant has a track record of success in the restaurant field. Otherwise you’ll likely be throwing your money away.

As a small independent, you have to base your decisions on what will generate a solid return. Demand results from every marketing effort you undertake, and you’ll find your money well spent.

JAY SIFF is a principal of Moving Targets (www.movingtargets.com), a Perkasie, Pa.-based provider of new resident direct marketing programs for small business. Jay can be reached at (800) 926-2451 or jay@movingtargets.com

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Tip to Lower Food Cost

Proper Portioning


If you run a 30% food cost and over portion by 10%, you will raise your food cost to 33 percent.






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